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Bangladesh: Factory Fire Leaves 50 Injured During Escape Attempts

The verdict remains out on whether Bangladesh has greatly improved safety conditions in its garment sector—some say yes, though ongoing instances could indicate otherwise.

More than 50 workers at a Gazipur factory were injured Monday while trying to flee a fire that broke out at Bikon Knitwears in the Salna area, BD News 24 reported.

“Panic spread among the workers as smoke started billowing out,” senior executive of Joydebpur Fire Service Rafiq Uddin told BD News. “They doused the flames before fire fighting units reached there.”

Workers were reportedly injured as they rushed down the stairs to get out of the nine-story building. Some suffered cuts and bruises as they fell over one another in their attempts to escape. No deaths were reported in the fire.

An electrical short circuit is being reported as the cause of the blaze.

News of the fire comes just as the country’s commerce minister Tofail Ahmed declared Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector “fully safe.”

Ahmed said, speaking at the opening ceremony of the fourth International Fire, Safety and Security Expo 2016, that since Rana Plaza, no similarly serious incident has taken place, the Financial Express reported. He also said a recent inspection of the country’s 3,800 factories found that only 32 have safety and security issues.

The number doesn’t seem to align with records from the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker safety, which has been working to improve factory conditions in the country since 2013. Last week, the Alliance said it had suspended one new factory for failure to meet remediation progress or remove lockable exits, bringing its total current number of suspended factories to 102—each of which would have some sort of outstanding safety condition.

Stressing Bangladesh’s progress in the garment sector, however, Ahmed said beyond taking care of safety concerns, within the next few months 253 factories in the country will be turned into “green” factories with more environmentally friendly operations.